Just before our visit to Stockholm, I had had trouble finding entirely vegan restaurants there. I had made the mistake of assuming that a country as progressive as Sweden would have plenty of vegan options, but in my searches I found hardly any.
Then I came across Bliss Café, a fully raw vegan café, restaurant and shop.
We made the trip to Södermalm, Stockholm’s historically working-class district, that has been predictably gentrified and is now hipster central of the city. At the restaurant, we were warmly welcomed into the cosy little café by the owner, Shantimaya, a yoga and meditation teacher from Syria.
While this place has much more the feeling of a quiet, compact café, full meals are served and just sitting (especially outside in the summer) and taking the time to enjoy and digest your food is definitely encouraged.
We had the meal of the day, which consisted of two kinds of salad, a raw courgette (zucchini) and pea curry and raw hummus made from sprouted lentils nestled in a hollowed out tomato.
It looked like a light snack, but was actually very filling and satisfying.
As it happened, the night we visited, Shantimaya was just about to start a ‘cooking’ course after closing the café to the public, and there was a spot free. I decided to stay on and take part, as I have really enjoyed eating raw food in the last few months, but have very little idea of how to prepare something more than just a raw salad.
After everyone had introduced themselves and given their reason for being curious about learning how to prepare good raw food, Shantimaya talked about his personal reasons and the health benefits of eating sattvic, or sentient, food.
He explained why he personally didn’t eat or work with onions or garlic (these are considered tamasic, or static, foods, which cause lethargy or dullness and even apparently disrupt synchronisation between the two hemispheres of the brain) among a few other things (red lentils, mushrooms, eggs and of course meat) and he gave anecdotes on the topic of humans being more likely to be herbivores by nature rather than omnivores.
I found this interesting, though I wasn’t so much bothered by the spiritual reasons for eating raw food, and after a while, was curious to start actually preparing some food and learning about new combinations and perhaps even new ingredients.
When we eventually got started, Shantimaya definitely didn’t disappoint in this regard.
As a substitute for onion, he introduced us to asafoetida, a spice which I was only vaguely familiar with (in as much as I knew how to pronounce its name in English), and which he used liberally in almost all the dishes he showed us how to prepare.
First were a couple of salads, both with ingredients I wouldn’t have previously considered putting together. Lettuce, apple, orange, almond and sultana salad with a cinnamon, vinegar and olive oil dressing anyone? It sounds weird, but works surprisingly well, and the cinnamon and vinegar combination is now something I routinely use on my salads.
This was followed a ‘sushi salad’, containing lettuce, seaweed, grated carrot, goji berries, avocado, cashew nuts, tamari sauce, balsamic vinegar, sesame seeds and asafoetida. Delicious!
He then showed us how we can eat raw green lentils. By soaking them overnight, draining them and leaving them in the fridge for a few hours, they begin to soften and sprout. With these, he made a pleasant lentil dish using fresh coriander, oil, cumin, salt, lemon juice and of course asafoetida.
Next was the very same courgette curry I’d tried as part of the meal of the day, which used thinly sliced courgette, frozen peas, fresh sugar snaps, briefly marinated in a sauce made of blended sun dried tomatoes, a whole red pepper, basil, oil, turmeric, muscat, all spice, salt and pepper. It was delicious and involved a pleasing array of textures.
Using soaked cashew nuts, he also showed us a recipe for a raw ‘cheese’ dip. This involved cashews ground together with sunflower seeds, yeast flakes, oil, lemon, turmeric, salt, pepper and naturally asafoetida. It was wonderfully smooth, creamy and satisfying.
For dessert, Shantimaya whipped up a chocolate chia pudding by soaking chia seeds in water and adding raw cocoa powder, cashew oil, grated orange peel, vanilla and stevia to sweeten it slightly. I found the texture and taste a little odd, but it was definitely interesting.
Overall, I found the course informative, well organised and indeed fun! Trying out these new recipes with a group of people who were at first strangers was surprisingly intimate and the whole vibe of the room was very welcoming, open and comfortable. I also definitely didn’t leave hungry.
I found Shantimaya a fascinating and charismatic person who clearly loved and cared about what he did, and his enthusiasm was infectious. If you’re in Stockholm looking for a fun evening of consciously eating great food and meeting new people, I urge you to try out this course. You can see more pictures from various evenings here.
- The meal of the day costs 90 SEK (£7.90, €9.80 US$13.20)
- The ‘cooking’ course costs 450 SEK (£40, €50, US$65), is held approximately every second Thursday at 6pm and may last up to four hours
- Open: 12:00-18:00, Tuesday to Saturday (closed Sundays and Mondays)
- Address: Östgötagatan 77, Södermalm, Stockholm
- Telephone: +46723330630
- Foursquare; Facebook; website
Many thanks to Shantimaya, who kindly gave us a complimentary meal of the day and a small discount on the course. He did not request that I write a favourable review, and my opinions are, and always will be, my own.